I am grateful to have a contribution today from guest writer Nicole Allen. Nicole’s bio can be found at the bottom of the article. - Michael Patrick
Stress And Anxiety
The hustle and bustle of everyday life can be too much to handle for a lot of individuals. Traffic jams flooding the busy city streets, the sound of your screaming kids fighting over some toy, and bills piling up that are all waiting to be paid are just some sources of stress.
It is important to take care of your mental health to guarantee your overall well-being. Stress can just be the beginning of a long line of issues and ailments if not properly addressed. A proven way to combat stress is through the practice of yoga.
Yoga has been in existence for 15,000 years already. It is not just a fad which its popularity will fizzle in a few years or so. It is gaining momentum year after year after given the positive effects it has on those who live and practice it. The fact that it survived this long is a testament to how beneficial it is.
Yoga and Stress
Harvard Mental Health Letter (2009) laid down how doing the discipline can lessen the impact of how one responds to stress. This is beneficial in fighting depression and anxiety.
With the reduced acceptance of stress, the physiological reaction is also decreased. This includes lowered blood pressure, reduced heart rate, and better breathing. There is also a perceived correlation between doing yoga and an increase in heart rate variability. This signifies that the body is able to react to stress in a more flexible manner.
In another article published by The Journal Of Alternative And Complementary Medicine (2010), a study was conducted to determine whether or not yoga has an effect on an individual’s mood and anxiety. The subjects were healthy individuals with no significant psychiatric or medical disorders who were monitored for 12 weeks and were compared with a group who only did walking. A baseline scan was done before the experiment and every four weeks thereafter.
The result showed greater improvement in the mood of those who did yoga as opposed to those who were walking. The yoga group also manifested greater decreases in anxiety.
How Does Yoga Help?
There are several ways yoga helps. Dr. Gillihan (2016) laid down seven ways how yoga reduces stress and anxiety.
1. Promotes relaxation
Stressful situations tend to constrict the body and place tension on the jaw, shoulders, and neck among other body parts. These bodily tensions can feed the mind so everything else feels uneasy. Doing yoga lessens physical tension.
2. Regulates breathing
How people breathe is deeply connected to the nervous system. Anxiety leaves individuals grasping for breath due to the rapid and shallow succession in their breathing patterns. There are also instances when people hold their breaths and take big ones instead, taking slow deep breaths to soothe the nervous system. This is the breathing technique being used in yoga. One needs to breathe with awareness as you navigate your way through challenging poses and take that same approach with breath off the mat in everyday life.
3. Increases bodily awareness
Yoga teaches greater bodily awareness to lessen physical tension and reduce the stress on the mat. It is common for everyone to bring unnecessary tension on their bodies. But practicing yoga teaches how to recognize these tension points and let go of it.
4. Interrupts with worry cycles
Everyone gets stuck in their heads with some concerns and chronic worrying can be physically and mentally draining. Being on the mat is an opportunity to zone out of the thinking mode. While the worries are lurking, yoga provides an avenue to let go of them and instead focus on breathing and how the body moves. This practice will also teach people how to let go of your concerns on other occasions outside of the mat.
5. Cultivates self-acceptance
Yoga can be challenging which leads one to accept their bodies, limits, and abilities. This acceptance, however, does not mean accepting stagnation. There is always room for growth and improvement.
6. Exhibits self-compassion
Having too much on one’s plate can lead the person to stop doing what is good for them like getting enough rest, exercising, or eating healthy and nutritious food. Setting aside even 30 minutes a day to do yoga is an expression of just how much yourself is worth taking care of. Caring for yourself is just as important as caring for others. Investing in your well-being is also extremely critical.
7. Teaches acceptance of discomfort
It is a common reaction for people to get away from any form of discomfort. This attitude can sometimes lead them away from what is essential. As an example, avoiding activities that can make you feel anxious will take away the exhilarating feeling of doing the experience. Yoga offers many discomforts – from the changing of poses to the sweat dripping. But facing this discomfort can lead you to a whole new level of peace and acceptance. This is the kind of attitude that yoga fosters.
Yoga Poses to Relieve Stress
Here are some simple yoga poses you can incorporate into your daily routine to help relieve yourself of stress:
Toe Squat – Kneel on the mat with toes tuck under the feet. Lean back and align it with your heels. Lengthen the spine and focus on your breath. Try to feel the stretch.
Uttanasana (Standing Forward Bend) – Stand on the soles of your feet and bend over your upper body. Hold the opposite elbows as you relax the top of your head towards the floor. Pull all the weight of your upper body and feel the stretch at the back of your legs. Lengthen the spine as you slowly inhale and exhale.
Adho Mukha Svanasana (Down Dog) – Go all the way to downward dog position. Feet flat on the floor, upper body bent forward as both hands fall firmly flat on the floor. The energy should flow through the arms. Lengthen the spine by keeping the neck long and shoulders away from both ears. Then put the right leg up and back. Do the same to the left leg.
Anhanayasana (Low Lunge) – From down dog, bring your right knee to your chest while the left knee is on the floor. The left toe should be pointed as the butt is lifted up. Place the right hand on the right knee. The left hand is grabbing the left foot and pulling it to the glute. Stretch the torso all the way back to feel the sensation.
Nicole is a freelance writer and educator based in Michigan and believes that her writing is an extension of her career as a tutor. She covers many topics like travel, mental health, and education. She is a key contributor to Chapters Capistrano's website where she covers topics like addiction recovery, dual diagnosis treatment, and health education. When she isn’t writing, you might find Nicole running, hiking, and swimming. She has participated in several 10K races and hopes to compete in a marathon one day.